Super Turbo Atomic Ninja Rabbit
Exhuming forgotten, niche 90s comics, films and TV series is a big thing in the anime world. Online
forums are overflowing with discussions about origins and lost episodes of series like Zenki and Yu Yu Hakusho. It was on the wave of this trend that Wes Louis pranked the online anime fan community by releasing an apparent VHS recording of the STANR title sequence. To watch click here
After some discussion of the hoax YouTube posting some people said they "remembered" it, some tried to debunk it and many were confused as to how something like this could simply disappear. The hoax grew to include pictures of merchandise and short films.
In reality Super Turbo Atomic Ninja Rabbit was conceived in the ambitious mind of a ten year old Wesley Louis, now co-founder and director at London based animation powerhouse, The Line. The project is an impassioned homage to Saturday morning cartoons of the 80s and 90s. Nods to Thundercats, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Centurions are clear and were the driving force behind Wes’s childhood comic character. Some 24 years later it was released into the world as an animated title sequence and VR experience.
Following a successful launch event in London, the video has gone viral and featured by the likes of Vice, Vimeo and Motionographer.
The initial draft of the theme tune was written and performed by Rina May. Our role was to then develop and produce the track into something that rang true to 90s cartoon intros. Early versions were predominantly synth led but as the track developed we began to lean towards layers of electric guitar and a bolder trumpet motif. As we listened back to references, the live instrument approach seemed more in line with actual animated intros of the time. The trumpet motif evolved into an amalgamation of the original synth trumpet and a more realistic sample, providing a timbre that reflected the sonic qualities of that era.
Lyrics were re-written and additional versions were created. When Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles was released in 1987 it caused an uproar in the UK censoring bodies. The name "Ninja" was considered to have excessive violent connotations for a childrens program and had to be replaced with "Hero". This was reflected in the hoax and official versions of the STANR video where the word ‘Ninja’ is replaced with ‘Mega’. Rina came back into the studio to re-record new lines and the ‘Mega’ version of the chorus.
Other than the choice of instrumentation, mixing was key in achieving an authentic sound. We were referring back to a lot of the original shows and listening to how they were produced. Re-recording back via analogue tape was ultimately abandoned due to limited effect and we had more luck mastering via some analogue outboard gear in our API Lunchbox to get that elusive vintage warmth. The hoax version of the soundtrack was also effected with VHS emulation software to aid in the illusion of an old video recording.
The SFX were largely influenced by anime, kung fu movies and intros from shows like Thundercats and Centurions. This inevitably involved lot of high pitched phshiiiiiinnnggs and slliiiisssch's. These SFX exhibit a very brittle, almost badly produced quality that hark back to Eastern production of the era. We also looked to use vintage SFX that have been hanging around the major sound libraries for years, things like lightning, gun shots and explosions that are easily recognisable from similar productions. Many of the vintage SFX were lightly augmented with contemporary cinematic sounds to achieve a slightly modernised production quality for the official full release.
We also had the pleasure of meeting Wes’s nephews who came in to record the voices for the WTL logo. A contact was written up and they were paid handsomely in Jaffa Cakes.
As the project grew, the team behind the 3D modelling of the tank, No Ghost, floated the idea of creating a VR experience. It was a side project that would ultimately be debuted at the STANR launch party and shared online for free with the Oculus Rift community. Box Of Toys Audio were responsible for creating 3D sound for this immersive 360 experience. The experience was a linear sequence that featured user interactive elements. This would require audio engine integration to ensure 3D audio was triggered accurately in response to user interaction. Audio assets were created within the FMOD platform, an audio engine predominantly used for gaming applications. These audio assets were then married up to their corresponding 3D object assets via implementation in Unreal Engine. A new edit of the music theme was created to underscore the experience, building over time to peak in sync with an action packed ending.